Man’s best friend

Robin and Buzby
Robin and Buzby

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

During the summer we got a new addition to our family. For those that know us, and before anyone gets too excited, the new addition is a pup, a golden Labrador named Buzby.

He has been a wonderfully happy addition to the family - loves people, is friendly, bounces across the yard to welcome me home, loves affection and has won our hearts. He is also helping me understand that well known saying ‘a dog is man’s best friend’.

Many farms have dogs. Hard-working dogs who are part and parcel of the farm and invaluable in helping to round up animals - and I’m sure there is a strong bond of friendship between owner and animal too.

I remember the dog we had on the farm - Bess. No matter where she was around the farm Bess could hear the sound of my car on the cattle grid and be waiting in the yard for me to make a fuss of her.

For many people today a dog is a real friend. For others it may actually be their smartphone! I recently read an interesting article about an experiment a guy called Martin Lindstrom undertook. The author of ‘Buyology: The Truth and Lies About Why We Buy’, carried out a fascinating experiment using MRI technology.

The experiment lead him to the conclusion that smartphones have become akin to a best friend in the lives of many people. When the subjects of his experiment heard their phone ring, their brains fired off neurons in the area associated with feelings of love and compassion. Lindstrom said, “It was as if they were in the presence of a girlfriend, boyfriend, or family member.”

The Bible has much to say about love and friendship. One such verse that speaks of friendship will be recited at Remembrance Day services soon and comes from John 15:13, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’.

Words not about war or conflict in the world, but words spoken by Jesus Himself to His disciples as they shared the last meal together before He was arrested, falsely accused and crucified.

I know that Jesus is the best friend that you can ever have – and it is my prayer that readers of this column who don’t already call Jesus ‘friend’ will be able to call Him just that one day, as He becomes their saviour. But what does it actually mean to be a friend of Jesus?

Well, it required Him to take our place, bear our sin, and die our death at Calvary. The apostle John gives us the reason why Jesus died the death that He had to die, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). So what do we have to do? We have to believe in simple faith that Jesus died for us.

There are many kinds of friends and my newest friend comes on four legs! He may be ‘man’s best friend’ but you can have an eternal best friend - and as the beginning of the old hymn says, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!’ I hope and pray that you make His acquaintance.

Robin Fairbairn is pastor/evangelist with Ballygowan Presbyterian Church in County Down and also works as ministry development officer with The Good Book Company. He lives in the country and has been farming every Saturday for more years than he cares to admit.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.